Gruyere Alpage from Riggisalp Dairy

Gruyere Alpage is available on pre-order through our Holiday Catalog. Holiday pre-orders will get first priority on this limited release, after which point we will sell it from stock until our allocation runs out.

Production of Gruyere dates back to at least 1115, making it one of the world’s oldest cheeses. If we were to take a time machine back to an era before electricity and modern machinery, we would find Swiss farmers making cheese in almost the exact same manner Gruyere Alpage is being made this very day. So while have not yet mastered time travel, we can momentarily put ourselves in the shoes of that Swiss farmer from 900 years ago when we take a bite of Alpage Gruyere.

What makes Gruyere Alpage so unique? There are numerous factors.


The Cows

Alpage cheeses are only made from April through October. During the springtime, dairymen move their herds from the lowlands up to Alpine mountain chalets, a tradition known as transhumance. An Alpine meadow is quite possibly the most perfect place on earth for a cow. In the summer, the fields produce a wide variety of fresh and moist mountain grasses, herbs, and wildflowers, a wonderful and diverse diet for the cows. And the cool weather high in the mountains produce the ideal environment for the cows, who love to be outside but don’t like to be hot. Farmers have been bringing their animals up to alps for centuries because it produces the best milk for cheese. It is a far rarer practice nowadays, but luckily a few farmers still follow this traditional model.


The Alpine Dairy

Alpage cheeses are made in a small Swiss chalet located right on the alp where the herd grazes. Often there are a couple rooms attached for the living quarters of the cheesemaker and dairymen who look after the herd. Inside the cheese making room, it is as rustic of an operation as one will find. The milk is still heated in copper vats over a wood fire. Pulleys are used to lift the large volume of curd out of the vat. Traditional manual wooden cheese presses are used for the young wheels. Work is still done by hand, and in small batches. The cheesemaker is often retired after working for decades mastering their craft in a traditional dairy, but takes this summer job on the alp to go back to the work they know and love so well. Cheese is made in very small volumes, often a handful of wheels a day, then kept in a simple cellar and turned often. At the end of the season, these young wheels will be transferred to a cellar master who will carefully age them for another 12 months until they are fully matured.


Located in Fribourg, Riggisalp is a very historic Alpage. The first Alpage seasons here began over 400 years ago, and the chalet where the dairy is located is more than 150 years old (although the dairy was recently updated in 2019). The herd on Riggisalp is owned by the Schmitten Cattle and Alpine Cooperative, which is the oldest dairy cooperative in Fribourg.  There, master cheese maker Bernard Schneuwly turns that milk into wheels of Alpage Gruyere over the course of the herds six months of pasture at Riggasalp. At the end of the season, the herd was dressed up in flowers and bells and marched back down to the valley, a traditional parade that has gone on for centuries.

Gruyere Alpage is available on pre-order through our Holiday Catalog. Pre-orders will get first dibs on this limited release, after which point we will sell it from stock until our allocation runs out.